Settlement of the Carolinas Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Carolinas became the seat of the South in British North America, central to the tobacco and sugar plantation culture that the colonists developed and to the slave trade necessary to support that culture.

Summary of Event

The origins of English settlement of the Carolinas can be traced to 1629, when Charles I Charles I (king of England);Carolinas and of England granted all land between 31° and 36 ° north latitude to Sir Robert Heath, Heath, Sir Robert who called the area “New Carolana.” Heath planned to open the territory to French Protestants, or Huguenots, who were under siege in the latest of French religious conflicts. Agents of the Carolina settlers attempted to obtain supplies in Virginia to the north but were largely unsuccessful, and no settlements were established. Heath shortly thereafter gave up on the enterprise, and nothing further was attempted during Charles I’s reign. [kw]Settlement of the Carolinas (Mar. 24, 1663-July 25, 1729) [kw]Carolinas, Settlement of the (Mar. 24, 1663-July 25, 1729) Expansion and land acquisition;Mar. 24, 1663-July 25, 1729: Settlement of the Carolinas[2130] Colonization;Mar. 24, 1663-July 25, 1729: Settlement of the Carolinas[2130] American Colonies;Mar. 24, 1663-July 25, 1729: Settlement of the Carolinas[2130] Carolinas;colonization of Colonization;England of the Carolinas

The introduction of large-scale sugar production during the early 1660’s to Barbados Barbados , in the West Indies, among the wealthiest of the English colonies, had forced many small English planters to consider emigration from the island. When Sir John Colleton, Colleton, John a wealthy Barbadian, returned to England and gained a seat on the Council for Foreign Plantations, he conceived the idea of establishing a proprietary colony and recruiting Barbadians to settle it. For fellow proprietors, Colleton turned to powerful Englishmen who had already been associated with colonial expansion, the first earl of Shaftesbury, Shaftesbury, first earl of Sir William Berkeley, Berkeley, Sir William John Lord Berkeley, Berkeley, John Lord George Monck, Monck, George the first earl of Clarendon Clarendon, first earl of , the earl of Craven, Craven, earl of and Sir George Carteret Carteret, Sir George . On March 24, 1663, King Charles II Charles II (king of England);Barbados and granted to the proprietors a charter similar to that granted by his father, redefined as all land between 29° and 36° 30″ north latitude and extending west to the “South Seas”; they called the area Carolina after King Charles.

Required only to pay a nominal annual sum to the king, the proprietors possessed vast powers. They were empowered to fill offices, erect a government, establish courts, collect customs and taxes, grant land, confer titles, and determine military matters. They were obliged to guarantee the rights of Englishmen to their settlers, however, and could enact laws only with the consent of the freemen. The proprietors in England also constituted a Palatine Court, which, in addition to appointing the governor of the colonies, was empowered to disallow laws and hear appeals from the colony.

Having devised plans for the creation of three counties and having begun negotiations with two groups of prospective settlers in Barbados and New England, the proprietors drafted the “Declaration and Proposals to All That Will Plant in Carolina,” which outlined a headright system of land distribution and a framework for participatory government. Sir William Berkeley received authorization to appoint a governor and council for Albemarle County (later North Carolina), and in October, 1664, he named William Drummond Drummond, William of Virginia as its governor. A few months later, Sir John Yeamans Yeamans, Sir John was commissioned governor of Clarendon County. As a further inducement to settlement, in January, 1665, the proprietors drew up the Concessions and Agreements, which provided for a unicameral legislature that included representatives of the freemen and ensured religious toleration. However, friction between new arrivals and original settlers in combination with hostility from Native American tribes and the news of better land to the south, led to the abandonment of Clarendon County in 1667.

Settlement of Carolina during this period was focused primarily on the estuaries of the southern regions rather than the large bays and dangerous banks of the north. Settlers in the region were a varied lot, consisting of a mixture of English Dissenters, French Huguenots, and Presbyterian Scots. The largest contingent, however, consisted of emigrants Migration;Barbados to Carolinas from Barbados; by 1671, they constituted half the population in the region.

As a system of laws, the Concessions and Agreements had proven unsatisfactory, so in 1669, the earl of Shaftesbury collaborated with his protégé, John Locke, Locke, John to write the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina . Essentially, the program called for development of a landed aristocracy for the region, in the form of 12,000-acre (4,850-hectare) baronies. Two-thirds of the land would be held by a colonial nobility. Although a “parliament” consisting of the nobility and popular representatives would sit in the colony, the proprietors in England, functioning as a Palatine Court, could veto the legislature’s decisions. Some of these provisions were implemented, but the proprietors never succeeded in winning approval of the system as a whole. Few baronies were ever surveyed, and no manorial system was ever established. Reflecting the exigencies of a governing body in England removed from the day-to-day running of a colony, the actual government consisted of a governor and council appointed by the proprietors and representatives elected by the freemen. Until a Supreme Court was established in 1700, the governor and council would constitute the colony’s highest court.

Despite the abandonment of the Clarendon region, Carolina’s proprietors continued to develop plans for settlement of the region. Shaftesbury was able to convince the proprietors that a larger investment was essential for success. Drawing upon earlier experience and the expertise and resources of investors from Barbados, it was decided to attempt to establish a settlement at Port Royal Port Royal (American colony) . More than one hundred settlers, led by Joseph West, West, Joseph left England in August, 1669. However, after landing at Port Royal, already an important anchorage, they were persuaded by the local tribes to travel to another estuary some sixty miles up the coast. There, in April, 1670, they established Charles Town Charles Town (modern Charleston).

Because the settlers were predominantly tradesmen ignorant of farming methods, many went into debt and deserted the colony. Recruitment efforts proved successful, however, and a rapid influx of settlers from Barbados and elsewhere continued to populate the colony. Many of these men moved inland, searching out the best land along the estuaries. They quickly learned the ways of agriculture. Disparate ethnic enclaves began to form, such as French Huguenots settled along the Santee and a Scottish settlement at the anchorage of Port Royal. Despite religious contention, prosperity within the colony increased. In 1674, Dr. Henry Woodward Woodward, Henry was commissioned Indian agent to establish trade with local Native American tribes; the colonists developed a thriving trade Trade;Carolinas in furs and naval stores with England and in meat, lumber, and Indian slaves—a practice frowned upon by the proprietors—with the West Indies. Slavery;English colonists of Native Americans

A large proportion of the colonists having emigrated from Barbados, this particularly significant group soon gained control of the government. Known as the “Goose Creek men,” from the site of their settlement just outside of Charles Town, this faction was to determine the colony’s politics for the next fifty years. Despite success in the areas of trade and farming, conflict between the proprietors and settlers over debts, land distribution, and the slave trade nearly brought an end to the colony in the 1670’. Attracted by the proprietors’ promise of toleration, many Dissenters Dissenters also came, only to encounter the resentment of the conservative Anglican Barbadians, who resisted the proprietors’ efforts at reform; both pro- and anti-proprietary factions were formed.

During the 1670’, dissension culminated in what became known as Culpeper’s Rebellion Culpeper’s Rebellion (1677) . In 1677, Thomas Miller, governor and leader of the proprietary faction, attempted to combine his position with the duties of customs collector. In December, an anti-proprietary faction established a revolutionary government and imprisoned Miller. Miller escaped to England and pleaded his case before the Privy Council; John Culpeper, Culpeper, John a leader of the dissident group, represented the rebels. The council decided that Miller had indeed exceeded his authority. Culpeper was tried for treason but through the influence of Shaftesbury was acquitted.

When Governor James Colleton Colleton, James declared martial law in February, 1690, in an attempt to halt the abuses of the Native American trade and collect the quitrents, the Goose Creek men ousted him and replaced him with Seth Sothel Sothel, Seth . In 1691, Sothel was suspended by the Palatine Court and charged with treason, though Sothel’s death in 1694 ended the controversy. Meanwhile, Philip Ludwell Ludwell, Philip was appointed governor by the proprietors (1691), and the popular freemen’s branch of the legislature was allowed to meet separately and to exercise parliamentary privileges.

Unlike the turmoil of earlier decades, the 1690’s would be a decade of relative peace and prosperity. Ludwell and his successors were to reside in Charles Town, while Albemarle County, governed by Ludwell’s deputy, was to retain a separate legislature. Trade with Native American tribes prospered. Perhaps even more important, during this period it became apparent that a new crop, rice, was perfectly suited for the swampy lowlands of Carolina. Rice quickly became a staple export. Critical to the development of rice farming was the large influx of African slaves into the region, bringing with them knowledge of rice cultivation. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the black population equaled that of the white: There were approximately four thousand of each race. Slavery;Carolinas

The region of Albemarle, known as North Carolina after 1691, was repeatedly torn by religious strife in the first decade of the new century. Huguenots from Virginia had settled the area south of Albemarle Sound; German Palatines and Swiss had settled in the region of what would be founded as New Bern (1710). Although toleration had prevailed in the earlier years and many Dissenters held positions of power, Anglicans were determined to establish the Church of England in the colony. With the passage of the Vestry Act of 1704 Vestry Act of 1704 , Assembly members were required to take an oath of loyalty to the Church of England. The act aroused such intense opposition that deputy governor Thomas Cary was removed for attempting to enforce the law. In 1712, North Carolina was established as a separate colony; the proprietors appointed Edward Hyde Hyde, Edward (c. 1650-1712) deputy governor, the first governor of North Carolina to be independent of the royal governor of Carolina. The new legislature nullified the laws of the previous administrations.


The Carolinas were thus a crucible for many of the controversies shaping the evolution of both the colonists’ home countries and the other English colonies. Religious strife, disagreements over the proper form of colonial government and over the role of government as such, and interrelations between Europeans, Native Americas, and African slaves, all came to a head in the Carolina colonies.

The crisis in North Carolina was exacerbated by the war with the Tuscaroras Tuscaroras , the worst Indian war in the colony’s history. In September, 1711, the Tuscaroras, seeking revenge for encroachment by the settlers on their land, enslavement of their people, and unfair trading practices, attacked New Bern and other settlements from the Neuse to the Pamlico Rivers. Before the raids were over, hundreds of settlers had been massacred and their farms destroyed. Two expeditions, led by Colonel Jack Barnwell and Colonel James More in 1712 and 1713 and aided by men from South Carolina, finally defeated the Tuscaroras. Although the war had placed the colony in dire financial straits, it drew the people together, and they entered a new period of peace.

The choice of rice Rice, Carolinas as a staple crop had its greatest impact in the south. Unlike the tobacco crop, grown in the region of the Chesapeake to the north, rice growing required special water facilities to maintain an annual flooding of the fields. Agriculture;rice growing However, once the facilities were established, the rice crop could be grown in the same fields year after year. It was unnecessary to plant new fields or to continue shifting the settlements themselves. Thus, the settlements, once established, could maintain a semblance of stability, except for the frequent internal rivalries. Consequently, settlement followed the river systems as extensions from the city of Charles Town. By 1708, the population of the district (and in essence the entire colony) consisted of four thousand whites, forty-one hundred African Americans, and fourteen hundred Native Americans; most of the African Americans and Native Americans in the settlements were slaves.

Factional rivalries were revived at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The selection of an Anglican governor for Carolina in 1700 aroused the opposition of the Dissenters to the establishment of the Church of England in the colony; indeed, in 1704, the parish vestries had become the seats of power. The popular division over religion was superseded by a division over the issue of paper currency in 1712. As early as 1703, the colony had emitted its first bills of credit to pay for an expedition against the Spanish in Florida. Other emissions followed. The planters and tradesmen who did business solely within the colony favored the use of paper money, but the Charles Town merchants who had to pay their English creditors in specie bitterly opposed its use.

The proprietors had never moved decisively to control the long-standing abuses of trade with Native American tribes. As a result, in 1715, the Yamasee War Yamasee War (1715-1718) , the longest and costliest war with Native Americans in South Carolina’s history, erupted. During the conflict, people were driven from their homes to seek refuge in Charles Town. To end the abuses of trade, the Commons House of Assembly created a monopoly of the Native American trade under its own direction.

In 1718, the proprietors launched a strong attack upon some of the colony’s most popular laws, disallowing measures providing for bills of credit and import duties, removing the monopoly on trade, and weakening the power of the legislature; consequently, antiproprietary sentiment crystallized in favor of royal government. All that lacked for rebellion was a catalyst.

The catalyst came in November, 1719, in the form of the rumor of an imminent invasion of the colony by the Spanish. When the assembly convened in December, it declared itself a convention and petitioned the Board of Trade to be made a royal colony. Because the region represented a major line of defense against both the French and the Spanish, King George I accepted the removal of the proprietary government, and South Carolina became a royal colony in 1719. The “royalizing” process also had its counterpart in North Carolina. The Crown bought out the proprietors on July 25, 1729, and North Carolina also became a royal colony.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Andrews, Charles M. The Colonial Period of American History. 4 vols. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1934-1937. Includes a detailed discussion on the government of the Carolinas.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Canny, Nicholas, and Alaine Low, eds. The Origins of Empire: British Overseas Enterprise at the Close of the Seventeenth Century. Vol. 1 in The Oxford History of the British Empire, edited by William Roger Lewis. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Collection of essays by noted historians exploring numerous aspects of England’s worldwide colonial expansion. Explains the founding and governance of individual American colonies, and several essays focus on English colonies in New England, Carolinas, the mid-Atlantic, and the Chesapeake.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Craven, Wesley F. The Southern Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, 1607-1689. Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 1949. Places the settlement of the Carolinas in the context of English expansion in America. Written by noted author on colonial America.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McCusker, John, and Russell Menard. The Economy of British America, 1607-1789. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985. A detailed description of the economic factors behind the development of North and South Carolina.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Meriwether, Robert L. The Expansion of South Carolina, 1729-1765. 1940. Reprint. Philadelphia: Porcupine Press, 1974. A concise history of the later years of Carolina’s development.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Roper, H. L. Conceiving Carolina: Proprietors, Planters, and Plots. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. A history of South Carolina’s proprietary government and the complex relationships between British and Irish settlers, Huguenot refugees, Yamassee warriors, and African slaves.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Salley, Alexander S., Jr., ed. Narratives of Early Carolina, 1650-1708. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1946. Presents original accounts, including descriptions of the early explorations and life in the settlements.
Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

Charles I; Charles II (of England); First Earl of Clarendon; John Locke; George Monck; First Earl of Shaftesbury. Carolinas;colonization of Colonization;England of the Carolinas

Categories: History